We have another set of 2013 Ballpark Digest Awards to announce: the best renovations (under $1 million) go to Centennial Field, home of the Vermont Lake Monsters (short season; NY-Penn League) and Modern Woodmen Park, home of the Quad Cities River Bandits (Low Class A; Midwest League).
In both cases, the improvements were multiyear efforts, with 2013 the first season they were available during the whole campaign. And, in both cases, the improvements were significant enhancements that featured fans first.
"It takes a serious commitment to fan comfort to take on improvements like these, and in both cases it's pretty amazing to see such upgrades cost less than a million dollars," said Kevin Reichard, Ballpark Digest publisher. “These teams and their owners deserve recognition for going above and beyond.”
In Burlington, the Lake Monsters worked with the city on a renovation plan that included the installation of permanent seating on what had been a bare-concrete grandstand. The concrete general-admission sections in both the first- and third-base grandstands were replaced by 1,500 brand new permanent fixed seats, giving fans a more comfortable and enhanced view of the game. The backstop behind home plate was been moved out 12 feet closer to home plate and roughly 100 seats have been created in a new seating area to give fans a field level view of the action. In addition, a seating area was been created next to the visitors dugout in front of the third base grandstand. Both the home and away dugouts were been demolished and replaced with larger and more modern dugouts that are approximately 50 percent larger with more amenities than the previous dugouts. Finally, the fences surrounding Centennial Field were moved 10-20 feet closer to the playing field, decreasing the foul territory while enlarging the BBQ section down the left-field line to create more fan space for a better viewing experience.
The changes extended the life of the oldest venue in affiliated baseball. The site has been home to baseball since 1904, and officially opened on April 17, 1906 with University of Vermont's 10-4 victory over the University of Maine. The current concrete and steel main grandstand was erected in 1922, to replace the original wooden bleachers, which burned down in 1913.
"It has been fantastic to see the transformation of Centennial Field over the past two seasons," said New York-Penn League President Ben Hayes. "The increased fan amenities, in addition to the resources committed to needed ballpark infrastructure, has ensured that Vermont Lake Monsters baseball will continue its great tradition of support in and around the Burlington, VT area for years to come."
"The Vermont Lake Monsters are incredibly honored to have been named the recipient of the award," said Lake Monsters Vice President Kyle Bostwick. "We are appreciative of Ray's (Vermont Lake Monsters owner Ray Pecor) commitment to Lake Monsters baseball which allowed up to do these renovations, and excited to be able to continue to provide the best in summertime entertainment to our fans."
"Today's pro-baseball environment is sometimes too focused on the latest and the greatest," Reichard said. "The renovation of Centennial Field, the oldest affiliated ballpark, should be noted by baseball fans everywhere as a cause for celebration.”
In Davenport, the River Bandits took what had been an underused concrete patio and turned it into a glass-enclosed, climate-controlled space. In a northern clime, an open space can't be used for most of the year, but the new Sky Deck boasts three sides of gorgeous glass windows, bringing the feel of being outdoors while still being completely enclosed. Four glass garage doors overlook the picturesque scene of Modern Woodmen Park and the Centennial Bridge stretching across the Mississippi River. On the other side is a spectacular view of downtown Davenport.
The Sky Deck also has a center partition that can create two separate areas for breakout sessions or smaller meeting spaces. The space can accommodate up to 250 guests for a game, and the Sky Deck is used year-round for dozens of special events, including wedding ceremonies, receptions, rehearsal dinners, birthdays, corporate meetings and luncheons.
Add in some other improvements to the suite level at Modern Woodmen Park – bathroom renovations, new carpeting, new granite countertops in all 20 suites and a nice revamp of the air-conditioned Sports Lounge off the main ballpark concourse – and you have some very notable upgrades that cost just $715,000.
"Our new glass-enclosed Sky Deck and new bar for the club lounge both move us closer to our vision of turning Modern Woodmen Park into a year-round multi-purpose venue that is much bigger than baseball," said team owner Dave Heller. "It is the product of a great partnership between the team and the City of Davenport, and is exactly the sort of thing that has helped make Modern Woodmen Park a unique and special ballpark and the pride of the Quad Cities."
"It's really easy to see how great the Sky Deck works: it's a perfect gathering spot every day of the year, and it's obviously turned into a popular attraction for Davenport," Reichard said. "The River Bandits are known for implementing serious ballpark improvements annually, and it’s clearly resonated with fans."
ABOUT THE BALLPARK DIGEST AWARDS
Each year Ballpark Digest honors noteworthy accomplishments in the baseball world, whether it be Major League Baseball, Minor League Baseball, independent baseball, summer-collegiate baseball or college baseball. Readers are asked to submit nominations for awards in specific categories; Ballpark Digest editors then go though the submissions (numbering some 300 pages of documentation last year). The awards cover both individual accomplishments as well as team accomplishments. This is the fifth season for the Ballpark Digest Awards. A complete listing of Ballpark Digest Awards can be found at www.ballparkdigest.com/awards.
RELATED STORIES: 2013 Best Ballpark Renovation Over 2013: McKechnie Field; 2013 Broadcaster of the Year: John Sadak; 2013 Logo/Branding of the Year: Hillsboro Hops; 2013 Promotions of the Year: Lehigh Valley IronPigs
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